A couple of weekends ago, I was taking care of some things around the house while my wife, Melody, was relaxing on the couch and watching TV. She was enjoying a movie I had not seen in decades - the movie "Annie." You know Annie - that indomitable red head with an irrepressible spirit. And then, of course, there is her unforgettable song: "The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun. Just thinking about tomorrow, clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow, till there's none. When I'm stuck with a day that's gray and lonely, I just stick up my chin and grin and say: The sun will come out tomorrow!"
If only we all had Annie's perpetually cheery disposition. But real life doesn't always allow for Annie-esque optimism. For life doles out plenty of days which are "gray and lonely." The clouds of trials and troubles often overshadow the sun of joy and jocularity.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I had to endure many a cloudy day. Under what seemed to be perpetually gray skies, a burst of sun was always a welcome and even exciting sight. For me, a sunny day is better than a cloudy one. That is part of why I find the opening of Hebrews 12 so fascinating: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (verse 1). The preacher of Hebrews says that our life of faith is marked not by sun, but by clouds. It is marked by a cloud of witnesses. Who are these witnesses? These are those who have gone before us in the faith and sometimes have suffered and died for the faith. Indeed, the Greek word for "witnesses" is martys, from whence we get our English word "martyr." We meet some of these witnesses in the previous chapter of Hebrews: Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and the like. In fact, Hebrews 11 and 12 seem to echo Jesus' transfiguration, when the witnesses of Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus before Peter, James, and John, and a "cloud appears and envelopes them" (Luke 9:34). The image of preference for the Scriptural writers to describe those who surround our lives of faith seems to be that of a cloud.
But why? Isn't the image of a cloud dark, dank, and depressing? Well, certainly a Christian's life is not always easy. It is often marked by suffering from sin and persecution from the devil. But the image of gray skies carries with it not only difficulties, it also carries hope. For we are promised: "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen" (Revelation 1:7). And I always thought the day of Jesus' return would be sunny. I guess it will be marked by clouds.
Annie may have hoped for the sun to come out tomorrow. But today, I'm hoping for clouds. For on the clouds my Savior will come. And that promise is enough to make even the cloudy day of his return seem awfully sunny.